Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Altap Salamander

Filed under: Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

AltapSalamander3.01 A file-manager that was originally forced on me, but which I’ve come to rely upon for my daily work.

About ten years ago, I was hired by Oceaneering for a world-wide roll-out of an imaging and support project.  I won’t mention the name of the manager who hired me, because, well, we ended up having a problem.  As it turns out, he didn’t want to take on the project.  What’s more, he wasn’t big on hiring guys “like me”, who had certifications and so on, but he was forced to do just that by the same CIO who thrust the desktop imaging project on that manager.  The CIO, from what I understand from third-party sources, has since “retired”.  I don’t know if the ill-fated project ever was completed because both of the people originally assigned to it, including me, were encouraged to “find other opportunities to excel”.  Internal politics aside, I mostly blame my divorce for costing me that job.  It turned out okay, though, since I landed at Seatrax shortly thereafter and have been quite successful there.

The other good thing to come out of that mess was that manager forcing us all to use a program called, at the time, “Servant Salamander”.  As you can see from the thumbnail included on this post, it’s a file manager.  But, it’s more than just that.
There’s a lot of history with this utility.  Some of my readers may be familiar with the old Norton Commander, which inspired Petr Šolín to make the earliest version of Servant Salamander as freeware.  Or, they may be more familiar with the text-menu-based utility for Linux called “Midnight Commander” which is sometimes just referred to as “MC”, since the name of the actual command is “mc”.  This tool looks almost identical to Altap Salamander and if you’re used to Linux systems, running Salamander may make the transition a little easier.

Of course, the basics are there.  The side-by-side default view of two directories lets you easily copy or move files from one directory to the other via a quick series of clicks to select files and either hitting the F5 or F6 key respectively.  You can also use the context-sensitive menu to rename and delete files or directories, create directories, edit files or use the built-in viewer to preview files, all with the touch of a function key.  You can also connect a network drive, if you happen to have a local fileserver of some kind with available shared directories.
In fact, while there are menus, virtually every command can be accomplished via a series of keystrokes or a combination of keys.  For instance, while I usually use the mouse to navigate directories, a simple shift+F7 will bring up a dialog where I can type my desired destination directory.  Or, I can do  a search with a quick Alt+F7.  (And, the search function built into Salamander is quite good, if you need to find something.  At least as good as the built-in Windows search!)

But, what really makes this utility shine are all the extras.
For instance, sometimes, I have to deal with a lot of files in big directories that need to be synchronized between servers.  Salamander has a built-in function to compare directories.  It will even compare subdirectories, if it comes to that.  As someone who manages multiple websites, the FTP plugin for Salamander, which allows me to quickly connect to a remote server and then navigate it like any other directory, has been such a time saver and is so convenient for me, it may be the main reason I have continued to use Salamander!  I can even maintain a list of regular FTP sites so I can simply select them almost like I would change to any other drive on my system.  And, yes, once connected, I can transfer files back and forth with the same commands as I do on local drives.  (Though, I have to admit, every time I install Salamander on a new computer, I forget to set the default options for the FTP plugin to “Use passive transfer mode”, which seems to be the standard for all the FTP servers I connect to on a regular basis.)
Another plugin lets me view ISO CD or DVD disk images, which can be very helpful when you’re a system administrator and trying to retrieve a single file from an ISO downloaded from a vendor.  And still others do everything from opening compressed archives to comparing files to copying entire disks.  Further, if you managed both Windows and Linux servers, as I have, the WinSCP plugin makes it much easier to transfer files to a Linux host securely, though, at the moment, there’s not a 64-bit plugin, just a 32-bit version.  Again, all very handy things to be able to do, especially for an IT professional!

While there is a free, trial version of Altap Salamander, after having used the licensed version, I really prefer that and recommend that you spend the money on it.  As of this writing, if you get the latest version, along with all the plugins, only some of which cost extra, it will run €44.80, or about $63, for a single license.  And, that will give you access to a year’s worth of updates.  That may seem like a lot, but, trust me, the extras are all worth it and Petr updates it quite frequently.
Personally, I don’t know how I would make it through my day without using Altap Salamander!


Novell’s Aggressive Linux Stance

Filed under: Certification,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

…Really, really excites me!
Novell believes in Linux so much that they’ve added extra support for it in their ZENWorks for Desktops suite of programs. According to this press release on Novell’s website, they’ve added “imaging, configuration lockdown, remote management, inventory and software management” to their software which will enable folks to use Novell ZENworks 7 Linux Management to manage most Linux platforms, including SUSE LINUX and Red Hat* Enterprise Linux. Now, this might not seem like much to some of you, but, trust me, this is a quantum leap forward in the Linux world. Five years ago, I couldn’t hardly concieve of a major networking company doing something like this. Now, I can completely cut Microsoft out of the picture, if I want. I can have Linux desktops and servers all managed with Novell software.
I’m so happy I could just plotz.
And, I have to say that I’m really, really glad that I not only have maintained my Novell certification, but also gotten at least one Linux certification, too. I didn’t know it at the time, but I couldn’t have planned it any better. Once again, my career choices have been affirmed.
Well, off to the uranium mines! Have a very high-tech day!


I’m the WHAT?

Filed under: Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Gulp! I’m the Project Manager on that?
Er, uh, okay…. So, it turns out that almost everyone but me was thinking I was the project manager on the remote site standardization project. Which is something else again. Somehow, I got the idea that it was the remote site imaging project. Nope! Nothing like finding out you’re in charge of a big project that’s even bigger than you realized.
So, I guess I’ll be learning MS Project. And, reading a book or two on project management. Not to mention trying to sort out all the issues that have nothing to do with imaging, on which I have been oh, so focused these past six months or so. At least I finished that this morning. Well, except for not having base images done on machines we don’t have yet. That’s not too bad, though, since it would take a miracle to have images of machines that I don’t have in my physical possession. Can’t fault me for that, right? RIGHT?
Well, anyway, it’s business as unusual in my freaky-deaky career. I never know what’s coming around the corner next. I just try to hold on tight and enjoy the ride!


My Top Search Terms

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Linux,Novell,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:18 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

It always amazes me what people search for.

Especially when they end up with me, instead of what they were looking for in the first place! I used to check on this kind of thing a whole lot more than I do lately, but I looked yesterday and thought I’d put it up here.
Here are the Top 20 searchs that led to my site, with commentary:
1 “bootable usb linux” – Well, I have been working on this a lot lately
2 “crazy toys” – All my toys are crazy, yo
3 “geek pictures” – Er… Would anyone really want to look at me?
4 “linux resume” – Um, duh?
5 “strom thurman” – This one always gets me. Even after death, ol’ Strom is a draw
6 “virtual legos” – No idea at all here
7 “usb linux boot” – How is this different from #1?
8 “javascript encryption” – I am Geek. Hear me roar, er, type
9 “jim hoffman” – Well, DUH!
10 “zenworks imaging” – I am a Novell zealot, after all
11 “free cisco book” – Hey, a Fun Friday Link!
12 “geek art” – Must be me talking about the future ex-wife’s art
13 “hello kitty robot” – Hello Kitty is fun. Hello Kitty Mecha is more fun. Too funny.
14 “tales of hoffman” – Again, DUH!
15 “bootable windows cd” – Hmm, I think I talk about boot loaders too much
16 “case mod tools” – Never done it, but maybe in the future…
17 “linux resume software” – Gee, I guess I talk about Linux a lot, too…
18 “novell resume” – Yep, I’m a hardcore Novell geek allright!
19 “science fiction channel” – Or, maybe just a hardcore geek
20 “homebrew tivo” – Yeah, see the above comment.

Freaky! Well, at least no one is looking for goat-sex pictures and finding my website! You know, that reminds me of a story this Greek guy told me about somone from his village back home… Maybe another time.


Novell ZENWorks Imaging Boot Secrets

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I’m finally getting it!

Okay, so it only took three months and a visit from a Novell Service Engineer for me to finally get it, but I have. Here’s the big secret to making ZENWorks imaging Linux boot CDs: key information is not anywhere to be found on the web. But, of course, the Network Geek will share with his loyal readers.
Now, I’ll do this in more detail later, but here it is in a nutshell. To update the bootable CD, first, get a good image and, using the instructions for adding a driver to the ZEN Boot image, get into the initrd.gz file on a machine that has the kernel version you want to update the CD to use. Now, copy all the drivers you want to use from the patched/updated server to the mounted initrd filesystem. Unmount that and re GZIP it. Now, copy your bzImage, or whatever, to a temp directory and rename it to “kernel”. Now, copy both of these files into the ISO, or make a new one with everything else on the CD. Burn it and go.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I went too fast, I’ll do it again with more detail later. I just was excited about it and had to throw that out there. Way cool!


Linux File Systems

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I never thought they’d come in handy with Netware!

But, they sure have this week. I’ve been working on a project at my new job that centers around ZENWorks. See, we have a whole bunch of companies now, and they all have their own idea of how to run their portion of the network. Well, we’re trying to get it all unified under one vision, namely ours. Toward that end, we’re establishing a standard, of sorts, for workstation imaging. But, we want to stay flexible with it. As I wrote on Tuesday, we’ve got a fairly good menu system worked out with bash shell scripts and yesterday I figured out how to make the default ZENWorks Imaging Bootable CD TFTP the menu script over from the ZENWorks for Desktops server and load it. (The menu itself runs the standard commands for imaging, but strings several images together into one menu item.) And, from the title of this entry, you can guess where I did all that work. Yep, on a Linux workstation.
Thanks to ZENWorks CoolSolutions and this article, I was able to figure out how to uncompress the Linux image, mount it as a filesystem, change it, and put it all back. I used a shareware ISO editor to change the boot.iso to include the new image and the settings.txt file. Then, we burned that and, ka-pow! We’ve got a solution. I’m refining it today, but it works well enough now, in my opinion.

Man, I love my new job! Novell and Linux together make a great team!

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